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Thrashers-Bruins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Atlanta Thrashers (27-26-6) at Boston Bruins (24-25-10).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Atlanta Thrashers will try to record their fourth straight win and move one step closer to their first-ever playoff berth as they visit the Boston Bruins.

The Thrashers beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Wednesday for their fourth win in five games following a season-high seven-game losing streak. With the victory, Atlanta has 60 points and is two points behind Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins, meanwhile, are currently in 11th place with 58 points.

"Basically the playoffs start now for us," said Brad Larsen, who scored two goals in the Thrashers' win. "We need to win, and need all the wins we can get."

Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 34 saves, including 25 in the final two periods, in his 11th consecutive start. He has allowed just four goals over the last three games and improved to 10-9-0 on the season.

Lehtonen's play was key to the victory as Atlanta was outshot 36-25.

"That's a team that is one of the best when it comes to four balanced lines," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said of the Sabres. "There's no weaknesses and they are tough to play. So to leave this building with a win is certainly a big plus for us."

Slava Kozlov and Niclas Havelid, both Olympians, also scored for the Thrashers, who converted 2-of-6 power-play opportunities and added a short-handed goal. Kozlov had two goals and three assists for fourth-place Russia, and Havelid was a member of the Swedish gold-medal winning team.

Marc Savard tallied two assists and has a team-leading 74 points.

While the Thrashers continued their winning streak after the Olympic break, the Bruins continued their skid with a 4-3 loss Wednesday to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston has lost three straight games and five of its last six. The Bruins will try to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat for the first time since a six-game losing streak from Nov. 8-20.

Marco Sturm, David Tanabe and Sergei Samsonov scored for the Bruins, who are 0-for-10 on the power play over the last three games. Boston led 3-2 after the first two periods but gave up two unanswered goals in the final session.

"The result wasn't what we wanted it to be, but the effort pretty much was," said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who finished with 25 saves. "Obviously, we were just a little off. They're a good team, but we had the lead. We should have won the game."

Boston left winger P.J. Axelsson, who assisted on Tanube's goal, left late in the second period with a lower-body injury and is questionable for this game.

The Bruins have three wins and a tie in their last four games against the Thrashers.

STANDINGS: Thrashers - 60 points, 3rd place, 24 PB, Southeast Division. Bruins - 58 points, 5th place, 23 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Thrashers - Ilya Kovalchuk, 37 goals; Savard, 50 assists and 74 points; Andy Sutton, 106 PIM. Bruins - Sturm, 21 goals; Patrice Bergeron, 31 assists and 50 points; Hal Gill, 86 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS : Thrashers - Power play: 19.8 percent (79 for 400), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (293 for 370), 26th. Bruins - Power play: 15.3 percent (48 for 313), 26th. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (296 for 350), 8th.

GOALTENDERS: Thrashers - Lehtonen (10-9-0, 1 SO, 2.81 GAA); Mike Dunham (4-4-1, 1, 2.79). Bruins - Thomas (8-4-4, 1, 2.28); Andrew Raycroft (7-16-2, 0, 3.66).

SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 24; Bruins, 3-2. At Atlanta, Axelsson scored the game-winner in the third period for the Bruins while Bergeron added two assists.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Thrashers - 13-15-2 on the road; Bruins - 11-11-6 at home.

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